Online Courses Challenge College Admissions

college ed
How do you determine whether prospective students are prepared for the best colleges?

Today grading standards vary among teachers and high schools. Personal essays could have been written by someone else or engineered because of the work of essay-writing coaches. SAT and ACT scores can be maximized through prep courses and different techniques that have little to do with achievement. Letters of recommendations and extracurricular activities are also imprecise measurement tools. Add to this the monetary contributions from wealthy families and Ivy League slots in high schools.

This imperfect information system is reflected by the fact that more than one in four students who start college drop out or transfer within three years.

MOOCs offered by dozens of elite colleges give high school students a chance to prove that they are ready for a university. In turn, the institution gets an accurate measure of whether a student is prepared for academics. edX and Coursera offer real courses –sometimes eves the same classes that are taught to freshmen– from the world’s greatest universities.

  • “MOOC success is much more likely to predict success in college classes than SAT scores, because MOOC success is, in fact, success in college classes”, explains Kevin Carey, director of policy program at New America.
  • “Online college courses also can be a better measure of student aptitude than Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes, which are considered in admissions by many colleges.”
  • “The availability of real, free college courses means universities won’t have to rely on such flawed proxies in the future. Instead they’ll be able to pick and choose from among students who have already demonstrated that they can excel at demanding college work.” 

Colleges are now figuring out how to incorporate MOOCs into admissions and make them recruiting tools. On the other side, students are listing MOOCs among extracurricular activities.

“It will become much harder for privileged parents to help their less-talented children game the system. Unless, of course, elite schools really wanted the children of the rich and powerful all along.”

[The Washington Post: Goodbye, SAT: How online courses will change college admissions]

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